Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, has revealed that cinemas were told to install hepa air filters in order to be granted approval to reopen for business.
The recommendation to install these filters comes after an assessment of the cinemas was conducted by the Health Ministry.
“Since those recommendations were made, I am not aware if any of the cinemas would have installed such filters and, therefore, we will have to get another engagement with them to see whether or not they would be installing these,” Dr Anthony said during Wednesday’s daily COVID-19 update.
He explained that the filters will be able to clear the air of viral particles if an infected asymptomatic person is inside the cinema. Additionally, Dr Anthony said if cinemas are to be reopened, persons will not be allowed to eat or drink while inside as this would require them to take off their mask.
“As we know, transmission would occur once people nose or mouths are exposed, and the likelihood of transmission can occur in such spaces,” the Health Minister stated.
Cinema owners have been calling on the government for some time now to grant them approval to reopen as many jobs in the industry have been lost due to the continued closure since March 2020.
They contended that international studies have shown that cinemas continue to be areas of low risk of transmission for COVID-19, noting that all other countries in the West Indies and the Caribbean have authorized cinemas to reopen except Guyana.
Movie theatres in Guyana such as Caribbean Cinemas and MovieTowne have implemented CinemaSafe, a programme launched by NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners), with health and safety protocols based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). These protocols were developed over several months by a team of industry experts in consultation with leading epidemiologists to support a safe return to movie theatres.
The CinemaSafe health and safety protocols include mandatory wearing of face masks at all time, appropriate physical distancing, 50% reduced capacity in theatres, modified concessions and mobile ticketing, frequent hand washing and sanitizing and enhanced cleaning.
Meanwhile, in the updated National COVID-19 measures published on January 29, the government lifted the restrictions on bars which are now allowed to reopen between 4am and 9:30pm.
Indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants was also granted approval, but indoor dining is restricted to 40% of the capacity of the building, and tables are to be placed six feet apart.
The new measures also outline that no more than four persons should be seated at one table.